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Aaron Jacob Mertens, my November Rain

I am a writer. Of all the artistic leanings I inherited from a family full of artists, my strength and adroitness was always most evident in my ability to string words together. Sometimes I write about things people don't want to read about. Sometimes I commit the faux pas of TMI. Sometimes I talk of things that make others uncomfortable, however I make no apologies for any of the aforementioned transgressions. It comes with the territory of being a writer and a blogger, and I always write with utmost honesty and with pure emotion. What I try to do is relay a story to people who are willing to read or listen, and be as accurate as possible without over embellishing the details. Much like the ladies of yore who made intricate and delicate textiles, I try to weave words in such a way that they create a beautiful fabric of a tale for someone to remember.

One thing I like to share are stories about people in my life. Maybe now one can begin to understand why I find my interactions with people very meaningful. Even if the relationship or interaction is short and brief and can be viewed as trivial when sized up against the grand span of time, believe me; nothing is trivial. Every person that we allow to get close helps shape us into what we will become.

Now that I've covered those basics, I can begin to talk about Aaron. All of this will now make sense.

When I was 18, sometime in January of 1992, I went with a classmate (Jennifer) and her boyfriend (Al) to a party down at San Diego State University, and there I met Aaron. He was best friends with my classmate's boyfriend. Aaron Mertens was on the football team, which made him teammates with an old classmate of mine from middle school, Wayne Pittman. Wayne was leaving the party as we got there, and he gave me a hug on the way out. I was introduced to Aaron and we started talking about how I knew Wayne. Aaron was tall, handsome, and had a really sweet smile. He had golden hazel eyes which I remember being fascinated with, because I had never seen anybody with that eye color. A couple of weeks prior to this encounter, I had broken up again with Jason Hill, and had a really bad date night with Mike Tomasulo (also from SDSU) and was feeling generally jaded about relationships in particular. I was reluctant to go at first because I didn't want to run into Tomasulo, but after careful assurances that the odds of that happening were a million to one, I found myself standing in front of an all American teenage dream.

After an hour of casual flirting, and a few beers on his part, he got bold and challenged me to play poker with him. For every hand I lost, I'd have to give him a kiss. I was taken aback because that was pretty fast, but I accepted his challenge and was determined to win. I was never the type to move fast, but in my head I figured, "I'm 18, it's time to live a little." I won the first hand. Jennifer and Al looked at me and smiled, looked at Aaron and smiled. Jennifer won the next hand. Al won the next hand after that, and finally impatient, Aaron leaned over and kissed me anyway. By the time we left a couple of hours later, we'd had a few more stolen kisses in between, an exchange of phone numbers, and Jennifer and Al took me home. I remember feeling kind of dazed, and I didn't drink anything. I try and recall the memory of that night because it was so profound, and I remember how I had my hair, I remember wearing my favorite heather gray Bullfrog logo tshirt, and I was wearing Levi's 501 button fly jeans and my white Keds sneakers. I normally dressed up in black, but I remember feeling somewhat ambivalent about going so I didn't put any effort into how I looked. Other details of that night escape me, but it was almost 19 years ago now, just over half of my lifetime ago, and some details are forever lost to the fog of time and age.

The next day was a Friday, and he showed up right after the last class bell rang. I saw him waiting by the gate by the bungalows with Al and Jennifer, and they were waiting for me. He started to walk beside me and I remember feeling very embarrassed about what happened the night before. But he was sweet about everything, carried my books and backpack as we walked to Mr. Hickman's band room, which was right by the lunch court, and he waited outside patiently while I went inside the band room to set up my saxophone and drop off my books. I had about 20 minutes to spare before after school practice. He was smiling at me and leaning up against a table in the lunch court, and as I walked over to him he adjusted his Aztecs ball cap.

"So, what did you think of last night?"
"I had fun."
"That's good. So I've got a question for you."
"Yeah? What's up?" (I am such a dork, I swear)
"You want to be my girl?"
"Hmm. Let me think about it and I'll get back to you." I started to walk away to head to practice. He stood there, didn't move. I took a step then turned around.
"OK. Sure. I'll be your girl!"

He leaned forward and grabbed me by the hand, pulled me in towards him, and he kissed me.

And that's how it started.

Now, we dated for nearly 3 months before calling it off. I don't remember every single day that we were together, so I'm only going to talk about what I do remember. He turned 19 the day after Christmas a week before we started seeing each other. He didn't drive so he either got rides from his friends Al, or sometimes Mike Krawtschenko. I will never forget Mike's name. He was really sweet and nice and adorable. Or I would drive. I often would pick him up after school and he would hang out with me at my home and play nice with my parents, and then I would drop him off back at the college dorms. We once went out for a bonfire with his friend Scott and his girlfriend Le. We set up a couples bonfire at Mission Bay and I remember snuggling with him under the blanket, looking at the stars, alternating conversation with Scott and Le and sneaking in kisses and caresses. One time he and I met up with a few of his other friends at a billiards hall and we played for an hour. He once took me to his house to meet his Mom, Rhonda, who was a really sweet and classy lady. She told him to treat me well, and she said that she was glad he was happy. Aaron told me that he was close to Rhonda and he told her everything, and he poured his heart out to her about me. The most formal date we had was when he had to go to a choir concert at St. James by the Sea Episcopal Church at La Jolla for a class of his. To my delight, the concert was Handel's Messiah. We watched the Superbowl at my house that January. It was the Redskins vs. the Bills and I cheered for the Redskins, he cheered for the Bills. I made Adobo and we watched with my family and had a great time. He said he loved how I cooked. We laughed at the Men on Football halftime segment with Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier, especially at the part where they make fun of the guy who plays the center.

Aaron played center for the Aztecs, and his jersey number was #69. You can see why this was a memorable event.

One time when he visited me at home, my Mom had slipped a whoopie cushion underneath the seat thinking I would sit on it. But Aaron sat down before I did, and a loud and horrible BRRRRRRPFFFFFTTTTT emerged from the cushion and he gave me a horrified look and said, "I did not do that!" I gave him a look that said WTF, and he swore up and down that it wasn't him. Then Mom came in and she was laughing, and then laughed even more when she found out her joke backfired. Aaron just stood up and hugged her.

We never fought. Everything was sweet, and in some ways a bit intense. I told Aaron from the start that I didn't want to move fast, and he said he would do his best to respect that. We were abstinent. That was due to my insistence, although like most 19 year olds, I don't think that he would have said no if I said I was willing. But he never pushed. He never made me feel uncomfortable about my decision to be abstinent. I remember thinking several times throughout the relationship that I should just go ahead and jump into the realm of the sexually active teenager, but I just couldn't get myself to do it.

There were two moments in our relationship that I remember with a very fierce intensity. Looking back these were the two moments that ultimately led to the end of what he and I were.

One was when Scott, Le, Aaron and I had gone to Glider Port in La Jolla to watch the sun set. Aaron and I were sitting on the ledge close to the edge of the cliff, looking at everything below. The sun was starting to get lower into the horizon, and Scott and Le were maintaining a respectable distance from us. One of them had a camera and called both of our names, and when we turned around from where we were sitting, a picture was taken. It wasn't good timing, because Aaron had chosen that moment to ask me where I wanted things to go between us. He never said outright that he wanted sex from me, but I think he wanted more of a commitment from me and needed to know if my future plans were going to involve him. I think he was serious about finding somebody for the long term, and I think he wanted to be serious about me. I told him I wanted to go pre-med, and then hopefully medical school. I told him that I had been accepted at Humboldt State University and USC and I wanted to go. If I couldn't afford medical school, I told him that I wasn't opposed to joining the Navy and maybe having them help me pay for medical school. This clearly upset him. He asked why I couldn't just stay in San Diego and go to school here. He said that he was thinking of going pro, and that scouts were looking at him and there was potential for him, and it would be nice if I was going to be nearby because a long distance relationship just wasn't in the cards for him. I told him I couldn't promise anything at the time, because there was so much I wanted to do and see.

The second was a couple of days later, he showed up at my house around 9PM. Mom and Dad, prior to going to bed, said that he could stay but I must leave my bedroom door open. We hung out and watched TV until my parents went to sleep, and then Aaron stood up and turned off the TV. He dimmed the lights and held my hand and led me to this huge leather throne style chair that was by the front door, and he sat me down. He sat on the ottoman in front of me, and held my hands. Then he started to tell me about what he wanted out of our relationship. He told me about his childhood, his relationship with his Mother, his drive in high school to excel at football, and then his determination to make it to college on a scholarship and his hopes of going professional. He also wanted a wife and kids there by his side. He wanted the American dream of being a ball player, having the nice house, the loyal wife and the beautiful kids. He loved me so much, he said, that he didn't want to see me leave for college and go in a different direction. He started to cry. My beautiful Aaron with his golden hazel eyes, he started to sob and I felt like shit knowing that it was because of me. I could have said right then and there that I would stay in town, that I'd just go to State and get a generic degree, and that I'd be ready for kids and domesticity, and sealed the deal, but instead I held him. I kissed him, and I told him that I loved him but I wasn't ready to make up my mind yet.

Three days went by and he didn't call or see me. Then on a Friday he came to my house, I think it was with Mike, and we walked to the park just down the street from me. Much like he asked me out, leaning up against a table, he broke up with me. He told me that he loved me, but he was going to give me time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. His last words to me were, "Hang on to your ticket stub. This doesn't mean that it's the end."

And that's how it ended.

I gave him a copy of a song by Roxette (don't judge, it was 1992 for crying out loud) called "The Sweet Hello, The Sad Goodbye." I managed to pass it on to Mike I think, and Mike was the one that told me a couple of days later that Aaron was really in a lot of hurt.

This didn't sit well with Al. Al hated me, and at the time it killed my friendship with Jennifer. Al had told my friend Tony that he had friends at Mesa College who were willing to come down and kick my ass because I broke his best friend's heart. I didn't do anything to Aaron except tell him I wasn't ready to commit to anything. He was the one that chose to break up with me. It was a lot of drama and I remember blocking a lot of it out.

A month later I heard he was seeing somebody else casually, and I had started seeing Jimmy Kaufman. I broke it up with Jimmy a month later for similar reasons. I just wasn't ready to be in a relationship with anybody. Then Jason Hill came back for a brief moment and was gone even faster, and soon after graduation I severed ties with a lot of people because I was just in a world of hurt. Due to circumstances with my parents' business failing and not having the financial backing needed, I ended up not being able to go to any of the 4 year colleges I was accepted to anyway. I ended up putting off my first semester of college and working to help pay for bills in the family. Someday I'll link an entry that covers all of the details. (Edit: http://jeisenne.livejournal.com/201007.html) In other words, I was where Aaron wanted me to be all along. But I didn't try and get in touch with him. I hadn't seen him since he broke up with me in March of that year.

I ended up seeing Jason again, and then he broke it off for the same reasons I've written about before. He broke up with me on December 6, 1992. I had just had a Poway Community Band concert performance led by Mr. Hickman and was bummed. I wasn't on speaking terms with Jennifer. I knew Aaron's birthday was a couple of weeks away, and I thought I'd maybe try and get a hold of him through other friends.

I went and saw Annabel, who was friends with Jennifer and could maybe help me get back into that circle. Annabel knew who Aaron was, because when she first saw him she thought he was hot and was upset when Jennifer told her that he on campus to see me. Annabel had her boyfriend Frankie over. They were talking to Frankie's roommate because Frankie didn't have a key to the apartment and he needed to get in after Annabel took him home. I said I was sorry for coming at a bad time, when she gave me the phone to talk to him because he was having a bad day and I was having a bad day and maybe two wrongs could make a right. I said hi on the phone, then said bye, and handed the phone back to Annabel. Frankie couldn't keep his eyes off of me, and when I left he gave me a pager number and told me to contact him sometime.

I got home and two hours later I called the pager number. I figured I would find out what Frankie wanted to talk about. The person who rang back was Jerry, who was letting Frankie stay with him, and to make a long and often repeated story short, we went out on a rather blind date that night and ended up marrying 7 months later. I went to Annabel to have her help me get back in touch with Aaron, and instead I found the man I am still with 18 years later.

It's funny how fate works out. Everything Aaron wanted me to be, I ended up becoming. I have traveled well across the USA for a couple of years after marrying when I was 19, but by 23 I was back in San Diego and I had two kids by the time I was 24. I've been here since, and for the most part have been a stay at home Mom, while working part time and going to school part time. I work in health care, but not as a doctor. In fact, I dropped out of nursing school and I hope to finish my degree in biology and teach human anatomy and physiology at the college level.

But I have no regrets with my life with Jerry. He is who I was meant to be with. A year before I left San Diego, I bumped into Scott in Mission Valley Mall, and I asked him how Aaron was doing. He said Aaron was doing well, had met somebody and feels that she's the one. I am guessing that person is Amanda, his wife.

Aaron died on Wednesday, November 17, 2010. Jennifer was the one that told me. I think he's 37 but the newspaper article says he's 38. I remember him being just a little older than me, because we were both with the class of 91 (I ended up with 92 though, after 10th grade due to being in school overseas). He leaves behind Amanda and three young kids.

I found him on MySpace shortly after Nick died because Jennifer had found me, shortly after a mutual friend Melissa found me there. When Nick died I swore that I'd do a better job of keeping in touch with people who meant something to me, and so I went on a search. I found John, Jerry's best friend from the Navy. I found Scotty, the best man at our wedding and one of Jer's USN brothers. Through Jennifer I found Aaron on that network, and he and I exchanged a very brief hello after looking through each other's pictures. He told me that NorCal was treating him well and he asked how I was doing. I told him that his family was gorgeous and that I'm glad he's doing well. That was the last time I heard from him or bothered to contact him. He had his life, I had mine. We were both doing well and after living half of our lives apart, there was nothing more to follow up on.

I don't talk about this at home because I fear Jerry might think I'm still in love with him, or that I shouldn't be mourning somebody who wasn't significant in my life anymore. But Aaron is significant, if only because in a roundabout way he led me to Jerry. Just like Jason Hill is significant, because had he not broken up with me again when he did, I wouldn't have been on that search for Aaron.

Jerry and my sons with him are the most important things in my life, and the greatest source of happiness and love, and I can thank fate, lucky stars, or circumstance for meeting him. But ultimately it was because of my search for Aaron that I found him, and I never got to thank him for it.

So there it is, my poorly told story, all unedited, first draft, etc. etc. I am sad and shocked and dismayed that he was taken from his loved ones in such a manner.

In the end he didn't go into the NFL. I heard long ago that a knee injury ended his professional aspirations. But in the end he had the life he wanted. He had a good job, a dedicated wife, and children. I hope he was happy. I hope he was able to live his life the way he wanted, on his terms, meeting most of his dreams. He was a good person when we were together, and as somebody who loved him once, even though it was half a lifetime ago, I only wanted the best for him because it's what he deserved.

Rest in peace Aaron. I'll never forget you.

Edit: Why I relate this breakup to November Rain. The song was immensely popular and the video was huge on MTV (yes, they played videos at one time). The song was on the TV right as we were walking out of the house before he broke up with me, and the night that he was crying because he was upset that he felt that I was going to just leave, it was on the TV again. The day we were at the Glider Port with Scott and Le and he was asking me where I wanted to go with us; in the car on the way back, I was leaning up against him in the back seat, and he was singing to it on the radio and he squeezed me during the lines that went:

If we could take the time to lay it on the line
I could rest my head just knowing that you were mine
All mine
So if you want to love me then darling, don't refrain
Or I'll just end up walking in the cold November rain

Do you need some time on your own?
Do you need some time all alone?
Everybody needs some time on their own
Don't you know you need some time all alone

And then he let go.


( 2 Starsailors — Comments Welcomed )
Nov. 22nd, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. *HUGE hugs* I wanted to wait to read this until I fully had time. That's just so wonderful that you remember so many of these details so fully and completely. I hope they always stay in your heart. Those are the moments that shape who you are as a person.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
They are, and they did shape me as a person.

I don't ever want anybody to read this to think that I chose my ambitions over Aaron, because at the time I did love him with all of my heart and had he not broken up with me, I really think it would have ended up being something long term. I can't ever guess about the "what ifs" because things didn't end up being that way, but I know that he was somebody I would have stayed with in the long run if we'd gotten past the 3 month stage.

He was a good person, and he was intense. He had his college and career plan all figured out, knew where he wanted to go and where he wanted to be. I had an end goal, but wasn't sure about which path I wanted to take to get there. I like scenic routes, and true to my Libra nature, I was indecisive and easy going. Looking back I'm pretty sure that's what ended it between us. At the time I was just shocked and upset as most 18 year olds are, and I didn't look at it objectively.

Thank you for reading this and sharing my memory of somebody. I always make it a point to remember things about people I encounter, because I always wanted to have an interesting story to share about them. Just like you and your friend Dirk (who I swear I have met back when I lived in DC and used to hit the club circuit) when they're taken from us too soon, so long as we keep them in our memories and share stories about them, then they're never fully gone.

We keep them alive in that small way.
( 2 Starsailors — Comments Welcomed )